Chapter 1. Principle
This principle mentioned inA123 (3) EPC applies only after delivery.
Once a patent is issued, an act of a third party that does not constitute an infringement can not become an infringement because of an amendment made after the grant (T1149 / 97 and Directives H-IV 3.1) quand bien même la description supporterait une telle modification.
Chapter 2. Basis of assessment
The range extension must be viewed in relation to the previous game (H-IV Guidelines 3.3) that this one
- the issued one;
- that maintained modified after opposition;
- or that resulting from a limitation.
Chapter 3. Examples
Section 3.1. Amendment of claims
Ce cas est le plus simple : si une limitation est supprimée (respectivement remplacée) dans une revendication, la protection conférée par les revendications s’accroit (respectivement, se déplace) et contrevient donc à l’A123 (3) EPC (Directives H-IV 3.1).
At first sight, but without certainty, this only applies to independent claims.
It is possible to replace a restrictive wording with another less restrictive wording if (T371 / 88):
- this allows to solve problems of clarity ;
- it is clear from the application that the less restrictive embodiment forms part of the invention and that there has never been any question of excluding it.
It is possible to replace in a claim a piece of information inaccurate by the exact information that is present throughout the rest of the application (T108 / 91).
3.1.2. Case of a non-limiting characteristic
One wonders what happens when a non-limiting feature is removed.
This can happen especially if a feature is aimed at an object that is not the one claimed (eg "remote control suitable for use on an OLED television" - the deletion of the "OLED" feature has a priori no impact on the remote control).
In this case, and normally, there is no extension of the protection.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to have a holistic interpretation of the claim (ie to analyze the claim as a whole by seeking the goal of the writer) (T1825 / 13).
Par exemple, un titulaire cherchait à supprimer le terme “à la chaleur” dans la revendication “dispositif de contrôle de la qualité d’impression d’une imprimante, dans lequel l’imprimante comprend deux dispositifs de séchage pour sécher l’encre à la chaleur“. Son argument était le fait que l’imprimante qui séchait à la chaleur était “en dehors de l’invention” et que donc les caractéristiques de celle-ci étaient non-limitatives du dispositif.
La chambre n’est pas de cet avis puisque, pour elle et selon la description, il faut comprendre la revendication comme couvrant l’imprimante “imprimante comportant un dispositif de contrôle de la qualité d’impression et deux dispositifs de séchage pour sécher l’encre à la chaleur". Therefore the deletion of "in the heat"ContravenesA123 (3) EPC.
Section 3.2. Limiting a characteristic in an "open" composition
Imagine the following situation in which the claim includes "the composition includes less than 5% of metal salts” .
Indeed, the copper salts (for example) whose content was limited in the first formulation are no longer limited.
The same situation happens if we have the characteristic "the composition comprises less than 5% of metal salts chosen from copper or zinc salts"Which is limited"the composition comprises less than 5% of metal salts chosen from copper salts
or zinc": Zinc salts can now be present in any proportion.
Section 3.3. Change of categories of claims
3.3.2. Acceptable changes
- product claim → product use claim without manufacture of other products (HV Directives 7.1)
- product claim → claim to manufacture this product that leads only to that product (HV Directives 7.2 and T5 / 90)
- claiming a process using a product → claiming use of the product to implement the process (T332 / 94 and HV 7.4 guidelines).
3.3.3. Cases of unacceptable changes
- product claim → product use claim with manufacture of other products (because these other products would then be protected via theA64 (2) EPC) (T1471 / 14, HV Directives 7.1);
- product use → product (HV Directives 7.3, T86 / 90);
- claiming a method for operating a device → product claim (because other uses of the device are then covered) (T82 / 93unless all the features of the product were contained in the original claim HV Directives 7.3, T378 / 86 and T426 / 89);
- claim to manufacture a product → claim for use of the product (T98 / 85) (HV Directives 7.1).
Section 3.4. Modification of the description / drawings
Changes to the description and drawings may also extend the protection conferred on claims by interpreting them
- of the'A69 EPC (T1149 / 97, G1 / 93, H-IV 3.2 Guidelines) and
- its interpretative protocol (which is an integral part of the EPC, A164 (1) EPC).
It is therefore forbidden to add in the course of opposition or during limitation a part of the description or drawings which had been deleted during examination (H-IV Guidelines 3.4).
decision T241 / 02 to moderate this prohibition by indicating that this is possible if the holder seeks to overcome a lack of description.
In addition, if the licensee modifies to provide drawings in order to hand over those originally filed, there may also be a range extension (T1360 / 13), notamment dans le cas où les figures précédentes étaient plus “obscures”, donc moins limitatives.
Chapter 4. Inescapable trap A123 (2) -A123 (3)
Section 4.1. Principle
If the applicant / holder has limited his application / patent with a technical feature not disclosed by the application as filed (and therefore contrary toA123 (2) EPC), it will not be able to remove it without extending the scope of its protection (which would be contrary to A123 (3) EPC) (G1 / 93, H-IV 3.5 Guidelines).
Of course, this characteristic must be a technical characteristic.
It is not possible to avoid this pincer by removing the feature and limiting the scope with a disclaimer (T1180 / 05).
Section 4.2. Exceptions concerning non-technical characteristics
It may happen that the claims are limited, during the procedure, in a non-technical way (eg restriction of the claimed method to only certain times, or to certain parameters only).
In that event, the Boards of Appeal seem to consider that those limitations are not prohibited by theA123 (2) EPC (T1779 / 09): the principle seems here to avoid the holder to fall into the "pincer" of A123 (2) EPC and A123 (3) EPC.